In an interview with Breitbart host Alex Marlow, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, denied there was a link between Hurricane Harvey and climate change. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
ALEX MARLOW (HOST): Have you tracked any of the media fallout, because the same thing always happens every time there’s even a little bit of rain. It seems like the left-wing media tries to make this seem like it’s climate change, that climate change is responsible, it’s actually America’s fossil fuel consumption that’s caused this tropical storm.
EPA DIRECTOR SCOTT PRUITT: Well, I’ve not followed that part. We’ve been so focused upon this response and integrating these emergency response activities. That’s not been something that — sitting around and being able to watch the news or consume that is not something I’ve been able to do. So, for that, that’s not something I’m aware of, no.
MARLOW: Ok, so, what would you say, theoretically, if they challenged you and they said that “this is something that has only taken place because of climate change,” what would be your response?
PRUITT: I think at this point to look at things like this and to talk about a cause and effect really isn’t helping the people of Texas right now. And that’s our response, that should be our response, we want to work together with Texas to ensure that people have safe drinking water, and power’s back on, and we see the right response by each of the federal agencies. So, I think for opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause and effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced.
Giving Pruitt the benefit of the doubt, his behavior could be described as a facade of faux ignorance in order to evade controversy. However, his claim that the “opportunistic” media is pushing this narrative “without basis or support” is absolutely false and indicative of his stance on the issue of climate change. Republicans have continued to deny the existence of man-made climate change despite the massive amount of evidence proving otherwise. They manage to avoid the issue by either accusing the media and scientists of conspiracy or painting their opponents as single-issue individuals. Pruitt purposely framed journalists as propagandists, taking advantage of a tragedy in order to push an agenda, when in fact, the opposite is true. Journalists have been putting their lives on the line helping Harvey victims get to safety. It is the role of the journalist to report the truth and if in need, help those affected by the story at hand. This means that journalists can both help victims and address the root cause of Hurricane Harvey.
Harvey cannot be explained away as an isolated incident when the rainfall, storm surges, and flooding have been described as the “worst ever U.S. natural disaster.” Reports have calculated that Harvey has taken 45 lives and will wreak $190 billion in damages. According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell, Harvey “was stronger at landfall and produced more rain over a wider area than Katrina” in addition, to outpacing costs of Katrina by at least $90 billion. In the long term, the most effective way to aid the inhabitants of Houston is to prevent a natural disaster like this from happening again.
The United States must address climate change as the most paramount threat to the safety of the people. Hurricane Harvey became as devastating as it was due to several factors related to climate change. Firstly, sea levels in the Houston region have risen by more than half a foot over the past few decades due to global warming. This has exacerbated storm surges and has increased flooding. Secondly, global warming has increased temperatures in the region by 1°C to 1.5°C higher than the average a few decades ago. Based on the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, renowned climatologist Michael E. Mann calculated that this rise in temperature amounts to roughly 3 to 5 percent more moisture in the atmosphere — which means more rain and flooding. This is evident in the 33 trillion gallons of rain Harvey has unleashed on the U.S.
Houston is also an example of the cost of short-sighted government policies, specifically in relation to environmental issues. Houston has undergone massive population growth in the past decade, adding 1.8 million inhabitants to the city since 2000. In order to sustain that growth, Houston has allowed the development of thousands of buildings over ponds, coastal prairie, and wetlands. These habitats were responsible for absorbing rain. In
In Harris County, more than 8,600 buildings were allowed to be put up inside 100-year floodplains since 2010. Developers were tasked to build ponds to retain runoff water that would have soaked into these natural habitats, but the rules continue to be poorly enforced. It was found that these properties were being flooded repeatedly. Now, as Harvey has wrought torrents of rain upon Houston, the rain has nowhere to go but up.
Hurricane Harvey has spotlighted how critical of an issue climate change is and how governments ultimately fail their people when they ignore the science. The situation is dire and we don’t have the leaders we need to tackle this formidable opponent. Scott Pruitt is unqualified to hold the position of administrator of the EPA and it is evident today how much so.
Image Source: U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons